What Exactly Is a Hashtag?

Dear Dr. Laura

I saw your Twitter post a couple of weeks ago. I have an account, but I just can't get the hang of hashtags. I'm embarrassed to ask, but what exactly is a hashtag?




I remember in my early Twitter days I got the # and @ mixed up in my thinking. You may not know it, but hashtags exist in many social media platforms. You will see them in things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn!

People use hashtags to draw attention to the topic they want to talk about. It might be a trending hashtag like #BLM to draw attention to a Black Lives Matter conversation. Someone might use a hashtag like #makerspace when they are talking about a popular topic like makerspaces. You might even see people use hashtags that correspond to a conference theme.

Here's what happens when someone uses a hashtag. Twitter (or other social media platforms) can index the hashtagged words and then the user (you and me) can search for the words that describe something we want to know more about.

So, if you want to start exploring Twitter for topics of interest to you, start by making a list of words related to your topic of interest. Let's use makerspace as our word.

  • makerspace

  • makerspaces

  • STEM

  • novel engineering

  • There are way more words I could list. But I'll stick to these 4.